May 11, 2015

The St. Louis Cardinals are unbeaten when Michael Wacha starts this year, though they are winless in his career in interleague games.

One of those trends will change Thursday when Wacha looks to improve to 6-0 in the finale of this three-game series against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

Wacha (5-0, 2.09 ERA) won his first four starts before he tossed 6 2-3 scoreless innings in a 3-2, 14-inning win over Pittsburgh on May 3. He got back into the win column by giving up three runs in six innings in Friday's 8-5 road win over the Pirates.

The right-hander is only averaging 4.42 strikeouts per nine innings to rank last on the Cardinals. That figure continues a downward trend from 9.05 in his rookie year in 2013 and 7.91 last year.

"He's got the ability to strike somebody out (but) I think he's getting quicker outs, too," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think he's a better pitcher when he's using everything. Strikeouts are going to be there I just think it's really early and I don't want to change a thing for him."

St. Louis (23-10) is 0-5 in his interleague starts, with Wacha going 0-3 with a 3.90 ERA. He has never faced Cleveland (12-20) and none of the Indians regulars have faced him.

The Indians, meanwhile, are 4-1 when Trevor Bauer (2-1, 4.19) starts versus the NL. He is 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in those games heading into his first outing against the Cardinals.

The only St. Louis hitter Bauer has faced is Jason Heyward, who is 0 for 3.

The right-hander struggled for the second consecutive start, giving up five runs and nine hits over five-plus innings in Friday's 9-3 loss to Miami. His home ERA rose to 6.75 in comparison to his 13 scoreless road innings.

Bauer's job will be easier if Matt Holliday isn't available. The Cardinals slugger was nailed on his left elbow by a 94 mph fastball by Corey Kluber in the first inning and left Tuesday's 2-0 loss.

X-rays taken on Holliday were negative and Matheny said the slugger is day to day.

Holliday's plunking touched off a back-and-forth of tight pitches between the teams. After Cardinals starter John Lackey retaliated for Holliday and hit Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis in the fourth, plate umpire Mike Everitt issued warnings to both dugouts, prompting manager Terry Francona to argue and resulting in Francona's ejection.

"I knew if I went out there, he was going to throw me out," Francona said. "I just wanted him to tell me that he (Lackey) wasn't throwing at Kip. I said, "Just tell me," and he wouldn't and that's when I probably said some things that I shouldn't have."

St. Louis will be happy to see Bauer after striking out 19 times Wednesday, including 18 by Kluber. Kluber had a no-hitter going until Jhonny Peralta's two-out single in the seventh inning.

Cardinals designated hitters are batting .306 in interleague play since it began in 1997 to top all NL clubs. Mark Reynolds is serving as their DH in this series, going 3 for 4 in Tuesday's 8-3 victory before striking out in all three at-bats Wednesday.

St. Louis is seeking to avoid dropping a second straight series after going 8-0-1 in its first nine.

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